Lunge / Equitation Lessons

I had two back to back lunge lessons, Mon. and Tues. Today I am sore! But in a very good way. The lessons were both on Rogo and he was a very good boy - willing, responsive and easy going.
I want to capture my insights and what I leaned while it is fresh in my head.
  1. I'm still (again?) weighting my right seat bone more than my left. I've fixed this before. How does it keep slipping back in???
  2. my whole right side is slightly off of where it should be when I'm going to the left. My right shoulder wants to turn out instead of staying in line with Rogo's shoulder. To fix it I have to turn it in until the sensation is that it's turned much too far in (it really isn't), and I need to think to turn it with every stride at this point or it goes right back out. My right leg, going left, continually creeps too far forward so that I end up somewhat blocking Rogo's shoulder. This means if I put my inside leg on to push him into the outside rein I'm also blocking him from going into that rein. Of course of all this is inter-related and each misalignment feeds / reinforces the other. The good thing is that when I fix it there is a gratifyingly immediate response from Rogo - he stays on a nice bend / circle much more easily and my poor lunger doesn't get hauled around trying to pull him through four corners of a square :)
  3. I'm still holding with my knees at times, although this has improved quite a bit. The result of letting go and keeping them off of him is a beautifully forward and happy horse, swinging along in his trot. I mentioned in an earlier post that it was my coach constantly saying 'forward' and building the muscles and muscle memory that finally got us forward. That is only partly true. Another big factor was freeing Rogo to trot forward by taking the tension out of my body and getting my knees out of his shoulders. I thought he was soooo sluggish in trot, but now I could almost say he is sensitive in that blocking him or holding tension in my body immediately slows him, and puts tension in his back. This is true to a startling degree and I wouldn't have known it if I hadn't felt it. Practicing the 'right' and 'wrong' way on the lunge really brings it home and reinforces what I'd already strongly felt. My teacher would get me to tense my body and / or grip with my knees and instantly I could feel Rogo's back stiffen and his gait go slow and lose it's nice rhythm. Then she'd get me to relax and take my knees off and in about two or three strides he'd be back to a beautiful rhythm and forward trot. 
  4. I need to lightly let my leg, with heels down, come on and off Rogo with each walking step.
  5. I need to bend and unbend my knee more when posting, so that my leg doesn't go forward as I rise. I need to really keep the weight in my stirrups so that I don't grip with my knees, as well as putting my leg lightly on as I sit and off as I rise. 
  6. I need to give my upward transition aids as a light signal that lasts one stride, not as a hard, driving aid that stays on until I get a result. If it doesn't work get my rhythm back and repeat until he understands.
  7. Sit very tall and weight my stirrups in sitting trot. Don't lean behind the vertical. Relax and follow him. Also, it's okay if my legs move some; trying to hold them still will make things worse (this is for both rising and sitting).
  8. Remember to weight my stirrups more (hmm, a theme?) in canter. Relax and follow him with my legs instead of pushing him. Apply all the previous (body position).
Those were the main things I learned. Now to get practicing. 


Great lesson notes Carol. I'm very jealous of your lunge lessons!

Isn't it amazing how our horses move when we can get out of their way? :)

Glad you two are moving forward.
Seems like you've got it all covered. It's nice to be able to spot what's wrong and correct yourself to make it right. Great list of "to do's."
Riding on the lunge in a lesson is one of the best things we can do to help ourselves and assess what's going on, just my opinion. Have fun with Rogo.
Carol said…
Thanks you guys! It's interesting, after the lesson Rogo was nuzzling the teacher and being very sweet and she said, "oh good, he doesn't hold a grudge for making him work". I laughed and said he wanted to thank her for helping me to ride him better. It must feel good to them when we get out of their way :)
Kelly said…
Always enjoy reading your lesson re-caps and I tuck those pointers away to try with my Diva.

Happy you and Rogo are enjoying your rides!
Anonymous said…
Good stuff - your instructor is really noticing and communicating well. It's amazing how much we can do to block our horse's motion - and so many people blame the horse!
Oak Creek Ranch said…
I'm so happy that I'm not the only one who has to work at not gripping with my knees. I think the corrections we constantly have to make to be straight are because we are not naturally straight - Brett has trouble with his shoulder, same as you but worse. You guys are making great progress!
Lori Skoog said…
I have great appreciation for all the work you put in on Rogo, and it is clear that you have both made a lot of progress. Kudos.
Carol said…
Thanks for the great feedbackk. I really appreciate hearing from you - it keeps me wanting to improve!
I just wanted to say that the woman giving me lunge lessons is amazing - somewhat locally famous for her lunge lessons :) She's been a great help to me.
Val said…
You are fortunate to have such an insightful teacher who can also communicate effectively. Kudos to you for being introspective. Some riders just cannot do that. It is always about the horse's shortcoming.

I, too, have had to learn to let my knees go, but my right leg does the opposite. I let it slip too far back. Oops!
Jan said…
Carol, What great lessons you had, and such good insights about them! How wonderful to have someone who is quite talented at lunging to help you.
I, too, am working on the elusive "weight in my stirrups." It is hard for me to find tips to help with this- push down with my feet? Feel heavy in my lower legs? At the same time I want to keep just the right amount of weight in my butt. It is such a challenge to me to weight the stirrups. Loved reading your pointers. I want to try some of them with Buckshot. Thanks for sharing! And you and Rogo are doing terrific. So cute about how he nuzzled the instructor afterwards. What a sweet horse he is!
Jeni said…
Awesome lessons Carol! Come teach me now!
Bella said…
Hi, I just found your blog.. Really great! :)
Sounds like you're really learning a TON from your lessons! I love those lessons where you feel like you really get something out of them... :)
I'm also someone attempting to teach a green(er) horse (she has a lot of the basics down, but she is definitely missing a lot of the details) the beauty and harmony of dressage. Hopefully we will get there someday, but I'm in no rush. Come check out my blog!
I love lunge lessons, they are so great for your posture. I haven't had one in years, though. I should get back to that. You're very right about needing a good lunge/position instructor, though. Not everyone can do it, even if they're a really good instructor for other things!

I lean left badly. Unchecked, it gets to the point where I start twisting and contorting into an icky, tense pretzel of bad riding. I use Yoga breathing techniques while riding to help me un-tense, but my coach also gave me a really good, quick fix: I just turn my head in the opposite direction from my leaning. So, I lean left... I turn my head right. If you lean right, then turn your head left. It automatically straightens up your spine and levels your shoulders. Then I breathe in, fix that feeling of straightness in my mind, and slowly turn my head back to center. It's amazing!

Have you ever read "Anatomy of Dressage" by Heinrich Schuszdiarra? It's a really great book detailing our anatomy and how it relates to proper riding position.